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Best Portable Foldable Solar Chargers

Solar Panel Chargers offer the convenience of power in the outdoors without having to go to a power outlet. You only need the sun. But with more power come bigger solar panels. This can be bulky and can occupy so much space when not in use (which is all night or when traveling). 

Foldable Solar panels are multiple small solar panels that open up to make a big panel that can provide much needed power. But these panels again will collapse to make them occupy less space and be easy to move around with. With a handle folding up allows you to move around with it just as you would a suitcase.  

21 Watt Phone Charger60 Watt Laptop Charger100 Watt High Capacity Charger
Anker 21W Portable Solar PanelALLPOWERS 60W Solar ChargerRenogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Solar Panel
Phone charger for the outdoors can be attached to backpack or trees to get maximum sunlightSolar panel charger for Laptops. Needs direct sunlight to charge a laptop but can be used for phones in low sunlightThis Solar Panel can fully charge a 50Ah Battery in 5 hours in direct sunlight. Great for camping and the outdoors.

Features of a great Solar Charger 

While being foldable is a great feature on a Solar Panel there are some other things to look out for when choosing a solar panel when camping. 

Wattage of the Solar Panel

The wattage tells you the strength of the solar panel in Amps x Volts (A/V). However, because there are various different ways to display this, make sure when buying a battery pack to match it with the correct type of solar panel by checking its specs.

The wattage on solar panels is usually shown as peak watt (PW) which refers to the maximum power they can produce under high light or sunlight conditions. The average output is lower than this so also check their performance under low light too e.g., cloudy days

A 100 Watt Solar Panel can provide around 6 amps per during a peak sun hour or around 30 amps hours daily. That’s around 500Wh on 4 hours of direct sunlight per week.  

Efficiency

Another consideration worth checking is what percentage of solar panels efficiency you are getting. Efficiency looks at how much of sunlight is actually converted to electricity. Spoiler alert. Solar Panels are quite inefficient like all electrical appliances.  Efficiency of around 21-23% are the best numbers you can get. 

Monocrystalline Panels

Monocrystalline Solar Panels are the more preferred options as they have better efficiency and take up less space. Thin Film Panels which are lighter and more flexible don’t have great performance and output declines over time.  A monocrystalline Solar Panel also perform better in low-light conditions.

Charge Regulator/Controller

Some solar panels come with a charge controller which is an added extra. They are not essential, but help to protect the batteries from overcharging and keep them at optimum level for longer life. 

This is especially if you using your solar panel to keep your car battery from dying while it’s parked when you are out camping. 

Connectors 

Solar Panels should come with at least two or more of the following;  Alligator Clips, SAE connectors, MC4 Connectors and a Connector compatible with your laptop or power station. 

Solar panels charging a power station

An SAE connector accommodates typical electrical loads such as 12-volt power, radios and electric circuits so you can safely power any DC system. You may also need alligator clips just in case you need to hook the panels directly to your batteries. The Solar Panels should also come with MC4 connectors that allow you to connect to other panels in parallel or series in case you need to upgrade the system.

Cables

Something that you may overlook are the cables. Make sure you get long cables with your solar panels. While some might argue that it reduces efficiency it also helps you stay in the shade while the panels are mounted where there is sufficient sunlight.  

With short cables you may have to add another cable to ensure it is mounted properly. 

Kickstand

Some solar panels have a built in kick stand which means that they can be propped up vertically to catch the sun. A ground mounted panel performs better that a panel placed flat surface or on the roof of the RV. Tilting solar panels can be adjusted to ensure that they catch as much sunlight as possible which will give you more power. This ensures that they are at their peak performance.

Goal Zero Boulder 50 Watt Solar Panel

Hooks or Metal Eyes

This is a feature to make it easy for you to attach the panels to a tree, Car or even Boat. Some come with metal eyes while some just have holes. 

Voltage

Most solar panels are advertised as 12V but the actual voltage might be higher. A panel rated between 16 and 19.5 volts will ensure the battery is continually charged.  A voltage system below 21 volts also ensures that you avoid electrical shock.

Also its good to note that a panel can have output with different voltages. It can have a USB output of 5V that is suitable for phones, 18V connector for laptops or 12V through alligator clips for Car batteries. 

Waterproof

Not all solar panels are made of the same materials so they will vary in their water resistance. Waterproof ones can be used outdoors 24/7 whereas others cannot be left out during wet weather or will need to be covered up. If you want them under a patio roof or somewhere covered during wet times, it’s worth checking with the manufacturer if this is okay. Also note that Waterproof and Weatherproof may be used interchangeably but do not necessarily mean the same thing. 

Price

The price ranges for solar panels vary depending on what wattage they are and if they come with any extra features that might be useful. Like the ones we’ve mentioned before. Price per watt is a number to look out for as well. 

Also check on the warranty provided. Most manufacturers offer warranties on their products so if you are investing in a more expensive panel, check that they do and what is covered by them. 

Suitcase or Briefcase

Last but not least is a suitcase where you will place the panels once folded. A case made of velcro will ensure the panels are protected and avoid dust while in storage. 

Important Tip

Always remember though to keep your batteries charged during the day to prevent you from any unexpected circumstances at night that requires the need for electricity. So when you use your portable radio, laptop, cell phones or flash light they will immediately recharge when plugged to a solar charger.

Anker 21W Solar Charger with Foldable Panel

Pros

Small, Foldable and Portable

High Efficiency

Easily Attachable to a Backpack or Tents

Multiple Ports; USB and Micro USB

Cons

Works best in Direct Sunlight

ALLPOWERS 60W Monocrystalline Foldable Solar Charger

Pros

Easy to set up

Fast Charging ensure that you save time

Built in Voltage Regulator to protect your device

Power up to 2 devices

Foldable hence portable

Water Resistant

Dual USB + DC Output

Cons

Needs direct sunlight to produce meaning full charge for a laptop battery otherwise you can use for phone

Renogy 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Panel

Pros

Easy Mounting

Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) technology for battery charging.

Solar Charge controller to prevent overcharging.

Negative ground controller

Cons

Requires some maintenance

Add a Power Bank with your Solar Panel Charger

A Power Bank takes the unstable solar panel input and converts it to the more stable DC output which can be used to charge your gadgets with minimal disruptions. Low-capacity power banks, like 5000mAh or even 10000mAh for small devices like mobile phones or tablets. In general these units are capable of recharging your phone two times from 0% – 100%.

The smaller ones around 2000mAh cannot recharge your device completely but they still contain enough power to give it a bit of energy while on the move. You can easily make out how much battery capacity a power bank contains from its size or weight.

The more powerful ones range from typically around 10,000mAh to 25Ah and upwards. At this level you might be able to charge your laptop with them if it’s not too big of a model (and requires around 55W at most). Some models come with a second USB output to power another device while charging itself via solar panel or wall socket.

You could even use two connected ones in series to get more energy for something like an electric scooter or bicycle, though normally these packs have enough juice already even for bigger applications like laptops.There are also some bigger units with a whopping output of 25000mAh and more. These might be big and heavy but they can definitely handle your laptops, not to mention keeping it running for some hours (not very long if you’re using it at the same time).

How long does it take to charge a solar panel

To charge a 10000mAh from 0 – 100% is typically around 3 hours with a 20 Watt Solar Panel. This can be faster in the middle of the day with direct sunlight.

Types of Solar Panels

The three main types of solar panels are Monocrystalline, Polycrystalline and Thin Film panels. Each type has its own distinct advantages and disadvantages. They also vary in the cost per watt for their electricity generation capacities. The size of your installation will determine which solar panel is most suitable for your job.

Monocrystalline Solar Panels

These are usually black, blue or grey in color with a shiny surface that looks similar to glass or metal. They contain large amounts of pure silicon that has been melted into boules (cylinders where the material is forged). A single crystal is then sliced out of these cylinders to produce monocrystalline cells. When exposed to sunlight, these slices produce electric current as electrons are drawn off to create an electric current.

Advantages – Monocrystalline solar panels produce the most electricity per square foot of any panel on the market today due to large amounts of pure silicon used in their design. They are also more durable compared with other types of solar panels because they have a lesser chance of cracking or breaking with normal installation practices. Also, they are able to perform better than other types of solar panels when temperatures become very hot since they do not lose efficiency as much as others might under extreme heat conditions. These panels are therefore the most efficient type available on the market today and work well in areas where there is plenty of sunlight throughout the year but also occasional periods of high, hail or heavy rainfall (which can damage other types of panels).

Disadvantages – As the name implies, monocrystalline panels are made from one single crystal wafer which is then sliced to create multiple cells. While this makes for a very efficient solar panel, it also means that each individual cell must be connected together inside the panel in order to create an electric current. This increases the number of connections within each panel and reduces its overall efficiency slightly. Also, since all of these cells are bound together, they cannot bend or flex easily during installation because doing so can cause them to break under their own weight. This makes it more difficult to install them on curved roofs without special attachments. Finally, monocrystalline panels are usually more expensive than other types due to the sheer amount of pure silicon used in each individual cell.

Polycrystalline Solar Panels

These panels are usually darker in color than monocrystalline cells and have a rougher surface. They are made from melted silicon that is then poured into square moulds to create ingots, which are then sliced into wafers just like monocrystalline panels. When exposed to sunlight, polycrystalline cells produce an electric current because electrons flow easily off the silicon wafers due to their smoother structure compared with other types of solar panels.

Advantages – Polycrystalline solar panels make up about 20% of all solar panel installations today because they are more efficient than traditional crystalline-based panels and cost less to produce. They work well in areas with a lot of sunlight but also a good amount of cloud coverage throughout the year, making them a good choice for most installations.

Disadvantages – Polycrystalline solar cells have a rougher surface that means they reflect more light than monocrystalline panels do. This can reduce their overall output by as much as 10% compared with other types of panels under direct sunlight, although this gap is closed during periods when there are clouds overhead because polycrystalline cells absorb more light than others (they’re black after all). Finally, these panels cannot handle extreme temperatures very well since they use an inferior silicon alloy; this makes it difficult to install them on roofs that receive direct sunlight in summer and shade in winter, which pigeonholes them into certain locations.

Thin Film Solar Panels

Thin film is perhaps the newest type of solar panel on the market today and are made using cadmium telluride (CdTe) or copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS). They work basically like traditional crystalline panels by absorbing sunlight and converting it into an electric current; however, these panels are much thinner than others because they do not use silicon wafers to create electricity. Instead, sunlight is absorbed directly onto a light sensitive material that converts it into energy.

Advantages – One of the most significant advantages offered by thin film solar panels is their flexibility since they can be easily bent or curved during installation without breaking or cracking under their own weight. They are also lightweight, which makes them easy to transport and install. Since these panels do not need silicon wafers to operate, they are less expensive than crystalline cells; however, this comes at the expense of their overall efficiency (which is about half that of traditional monocrystalline panels).

Disadvantages – Although thin film solar panels come in a variety of colors (red, green or blue), they produce less electricity because they cannot absorb as much sunlight as other types of solar cells. They also reflect more light (heat) than traditional modules do due to their lighter color. Additionally, these modules are easily damaged by high winds since they are so flexible. This means that manufacturers are unable to use glass on the front surface of these cells in most cases, which significantly increases their risk of breakage and makes them relatively fragile.

How does a Solar Panel Produce Electricity

There is a simple scientific explanation for how solar panels generate electricity. The panels are made up of small squares called cells. Each cell is like a sandwich, with two metal grids as the bread and a semi-conducting material (usually silicon) as the filling. When light strikes the surface of the cell, some of it is absorbed into this material and knocks electrons loose from their atoms.      The positive side of the cell then attracts these free electrons, creating an electric current that can be drawn out through wires to power electronic devices or stored in batteries for later use.